Technology June 28, 2012 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,604 Reads share

The RBS, Ulster Bank And NatWest Disaster. What Can We Learn From It?

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I’m sure everyone will have heard about the problems with the Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and Ulster Bank in the past week. I bank with Ulster Bank and I’m told payments made to me last week are unlikely to reach my account until next week – almost 14 days delay. All my direct debits are on hold too and I’m waiting to hear if there are any ramifications to this.

According to this

This is an unprecedented calamity for the group of banks and I am sure they are going to lose a lot of customers because of it. I have been hearing a lot about personal account problems – wages not being received, pensions being held up, mortgages not paid. But I haven’t heard much about big business accounts and how they have been affected.

In my previous life in London we banked with NatWest and deals would be made that hinged on over £1 million hitting our account on a particular day or large payments being made which had to reach our suppliers by a certain time that day. If this debacle had happened to our business in those days it would have crippled us.

Computer glitch?

The reason for the “computer glitch” is still unsure – I’ve seen it blamed on new IT employees in India and also the software company in the US doing an upgrade. No actual definitive reason is being given which is quite strange and indeed scary.

So lessons are needed to be learnt from this and I’m sure some heads will roll too. I believe businesses can also learn from this complete failure as well.

Related: Disaster Recovery Can Give A Business A Competitive Advantage


  • Back up, back up, back up – always ensure your data is backed up on a regular basis. The more important the information the more often the back up should be
  • Don’t allow minions to be in charge of important updates – if something is critical to your business ensure the person dealing with it is capable and you can rely on them
  • Oversee work done to make sure it is correct – if you have to delegate use a supervisor or yourself to check people’s work until you are sure they no longer need to be overseen
  • Provide up-to-date and on-going training – keep your employees knowledgeable about all systems
  • Surprise audits – do spot checks to make sure the productivity and quality is being kept up
  • Always have a check off point during important tasks being done – maybe a supervisor has to sign off at different stages so if there is a problem it can be pinpointed
  • Treat anything major to your business like the big red button – handle with care

Deal with the fall out

  • If the **** does hit the fan then deal with it immediately – don’t allow any delays
  • Keep people informed – don’t hide behind “no comment” or clever wording to disguise what has actually happened
  • Ensure all are singing from the same song sheet – if it is widespread across a few companies or countries then make sure they are given the up to date information to pass on to customers and clients and no conflicting reports
  • Have a back-up plan – always have a system or plan that goes into motion whenever any problems arise.
  • Have a back-up plan of the back-up plan

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  • Learn from your mistakes – analyse what went wrong and put systems in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again
  • Provide compensation – if people are affected by what happened in any negative way offer compensation, freebies, discounts or whatever it takes to keep their custom

Mistakes happen; it’s a fact of life. If you do what you can to prevent them in the first place all the better. In this technological day and age we all rely heavily on systems working. But think outside the box as if the system didn’t work – what would happen? And be prepared just in case.  Hopefully the RBS “glitch” will be sorted very soon and nothing like this will happen again to any other banking institution.

If you have any helpful ideas how companies can avoid or deal with “glitches” please do let me know.

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Image: “Man looking astonished in a network data center/Shutterstock

Sian Phillips

Sian Phillips

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